Mizuho to go live with DLT-based trade finance application

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Mizuho Bank is preparing to conduct its first live trade financing transactions over a distributed ledger developed in association with IBM.

The project will entail the exchange of digitised letters of credit for actual trade transactions between Japan and overseas clients, with all documents created, stored and shared on a permissioned ledger between importers, exporters and their banks. The system will also enable all parties to view the latest shipment status data, which can result in reduced trade transaction and processing costs.

The progreamme is the latest blockchain experiment conducted by the Japanese financial group, which is running a multitude of tests of the technology across its operations, from financial record-keeping to client document exchange.

Daisuke Yamada, managing executive officer and chief digital innovation officer at Mizuho, describes the bank as a market leader in Japan in applying the technology to its processes and workflows.

“We continue to work aggressively towards expanding our portfolio of its implementations across the group,” he says.

This first phase of the trade finance project will lead to Mizuho conducting actual trade transactions based on Hyperledger Fabric in June 2017.

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Spotify acquires Mediachain to develop blockchain technology that matches royalties with rightsowners

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By Paul Sawers for VB

Spotify has acquired Mediachain, a New York-based startup behind an open source peer-to-peer database and protocol for registering, identifying, and tracking creative works across the internet. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Launched in 2016 with seed backing from Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures, Mediachain has been working toward using blockchain technology to entrench timestamps and data regarding ownership to a specific media asset. It’s all about enabling creators and rightsowners to prove they are the owner of a piece of work — in the case of Spotify this would mean music — and receive payment.

The problem for legitimate companies such as Spotify is that they may try to pay artists and publishers, but often don’t know who the right people are to pay, which is perhaps more of a problem with smaller artists or indie labels. Just last month, Spotify reached a $30 million settlement with a publishing group over unpaid royalties, and they reached an agreement to establish best practices for Spotify to make a “reasonable effort” to match all music streams with rightsowners to make payments.

While blockchain technology has enabled the bitcoin cryptocurrency to flourish through a decentralized database where the ownership of specific tokens and their values are recorded, Mediachain has been working toward enabling a similar setup in music. “A music blockchain would be a single place to publish all information about who made what song, without having to trust a third-party organization,” Mediachain cofounder Jesse Walden has previously said.

Now, Spotify is bringing Brooklyn-based Mediachain in-house to work in its New York office, to “help further Spotify’s journey towards a more fair, transparent and rewarding music industry for creators and rights owners,” according to a press release.

With Spotify recently passing 50 million paid subscribers, with expectations that it will aim for an IPO sometime in 2018, the music-streaming giant has been going all out lately to garner the full support of labels and the broader creative community. Earlier this month, Spotify entered into a new licensing arrangement with Universal Music Group (UMG), allowing bands to limit new album releases to Spotify’s premium subscription for up to two weeks. It followed this up weeks later when it signed a similar deal with Merlin, effectively adding thousands of indie labels to a similar flexible release policy.

Spotify’s latest acquisition can be viewed through a similar lens to that of its refreshed licensing arrangements with labels: bringing Mediachain on board is all about showing that it’s doing its very best to ensure artists are compensated for their work.

Mediachain also represents the latest in a long line of acquisitions by Spotify. Last month it snapped up content recommendation startup MightyTV, which came shortly after it bought Sonalytic, a company specializing in music discovery and identification. And back in November Spotify acquired Preact, a startup that helps companies acquire and retain subscribers.

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Coinbase plans Ethereum messaging app

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Bitcoin exchange and virtual wallet operator Coinbase is bidding to emulate China’s hugely popular WeChat through a new unit that will offer a secure messaging app, an Ethereum wallet and a browser for Ethereum apps.

Similar to a web browser, the new platform, called Token, is a piece of software that runs on phones and allows users to access an open network.

The system offer a private and secure messaging app and a user-controlled Ethereum wallet for making payments as well as a browser for Ethereum apps that developers build.

The platform has a built in reputation system, with every user and app building their rep over time as they transact with others.

In a blog, Coinbase says that it has created Token in an effort to bring the kind of digital payments success seen by Chinese messaging app WeChat to the rest of the world.

Specifically, the firm is talking up Token’s ability to boost financial inclusion by tapping into the ubiquity of smartphones and the potential of digital currency.

In addition, Token is designed to make it a lot easier for people to build and use Ethereum apps and to help shift digital currency away from being an investment to being a proper payment network.

A Token developer preview has gone live using testnet Ethereum so no real money is involved. A move to mainnet is planned in the next few months.

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